A Borg and a Baritone #16: “The Training Wheels Are Off”

5 and a half months.

It’s hard to believe that I joined the Cincinnati Tradition Drum & Bugle Corps that long ago. And now, the Summer season starts this Saturday, with our first performance in 6 weeks!

I’ve really enjoyed the 1st half of the season with CT, so far! I’ve learned (and relearned) a bunch: from different breathing and stretching warm-ups from Jake (Brass Tech) and Andrew (World Champion Brass Caption Head) and physical warm-ups from Jessie (World Champion Color Guard Captain) to visual presentations from Garrett (World Champion Low Brass Tech) and playing/movement timing (from all the Brass Staff). 

If there’s been one concern, it’s fitness “ring rust”. Although I’m in better shape than I was in October and November, it feels (to me) like I’m about 2 levels behind most everyone else. I’m also still dealing with a torn Plantar Plate, so we’ll see how the feet hold up. The next rehearsal weekend I’m at (probably the May 10th rehearsal) will be the first time that I’ve marched since mid-June. Let’s hope that I can get my “marching chops” back before June 16th!

I don’t know how I would grade myself, overall, for the Winter and Spring Rehearsal Camps. For individual parts:


  • I think my footwork would be a ‘C-‘. I think I was overthinking the marching step a lot
  • My overall visual presentation would be a ‘C’. I improved a lot since January but I still need to work on a couple of things. I have not consistently been able to keep my elbows at the right angle; the weird thing is, it’s mainly the left elbow that’s been the problem. Work at home with just holding the horn might be the simplest solution, although more upper body workouts wouldn’t hurt. I also tend to bunch my shoulders when playing but, to be honest, I don’t often notice that it’s happening.
  • Horn angle and keeping the horn up: ‘C+’. My horn hasn’t been dipping as much as before but I still have the occasional “My arms are dying and my everythings are dying!!!” moments. 


  • I think my playing has been my strongest segment, so far: ‘B’. While I still tend to play a little flat, I’ve been listening more and adjusting better. I haven’t had any complaints about my playing tone (other than the pitch), so that’s good. I also have been pretty good with rhythms and range. As always, I am still looking for ways to improve.
  • Memorization, I think, is at a ‘B’; however, this would be an ‘A’, if I wasn’t also dealing with Finals. This will greatly improve once drill sets are put to music.


  • This was the area where I knew, going in, that I would be the most behind in. 
  • Playing endurance is, I think, at a ‘B’: I’ve been winded a few times but not as often as it seemed in November and December. My lips have survived, so far, also.
  • Physical endurance is at a ‘C+’, while overall marching fitness is a low ‘C’. Too many youngsters for this Cyborg to keep up with. 😉 j/k – It’s going to be a matter of grinding (I normally don’t like that word but it’s the best word that fits) at home, and repetitions at rehearsals, to get to the shape I need to be in. I do think I’ve made some good strides, already: dropped a pant size; hit personal highs in stationary bike riding (distance, per mile pace) and walking (sub – 15:00 per mile pace, total pace, distance recorded for a single walk).


The “Summer Season”: full weekend rehearsals, strictly outdoor rehearsals, repetitions, and performances/competitions… and I’m already starting behind. Our first rehearsal weekend is May 4th and May 5th. May 4th is the Kentucky Derby; hundreds of thousands of people are already in town for the most famous horse race in the world. Those people also bring a lot vehicle traffic to Louisville’s interstates… which my job requires me to monitor. Derby Day is one of 5 “Everyone Is Available” days. I wasn’t scheduled for the beginning event of the Derby Festival – “Thunder Over Louisville”, another of the 5 – but I was scheduled to work 5 PM (maybe sooner) – 12 AM, in direct conflict with CT. On this occasion, I choose work: it’s either go to work and miss a full day of drill setting (bad!) or go to Cincinnati and, at best, get written up for calling in/”No Show”ing (worse!). I will have to get my spots from someone, if possible.

Despite the delays, I’m looking forward to the outdoor rehearsals!*

Our Preview Show is on June 16th; 7 weeks until our first competition: my first competition since the 2010 DCA I&E Championships and my first marching competition/performance since 2008! 

It also means that my Training Wheels – and the Wheels of my fellow Rookies – come off on May 4th. The Staff will crank up the pace, the intensity(!), and the expectations of all of the performers. The heat and humidity will also go up a notch or 2 or 8. It’s going to be hot, it’s going to be hard, but I’m going to crank up my effort (by the way: you will never have to worry about my effort levels), my intensity, and my personal expectations. I don’t want to be “the Weak Link” in the CT chain.

So, it begins: the outdoor season. My indoor season went well. I have to now prove that taking the training wheels off of me wasn’t be a mistake. Stretch, exercise, and practice at home; keep an eye on my INR levels and my heart; learn my dots; fix mistakes quickly; take ownership; and, most importantly, have the right mental attitude: no complaining, no whining, enjoy the process. I’m ready!

* – if you DO hear me grumbling about the heat and humidity, go back to this post and remind me that I was “looking forward to outdoor rehearsals”.


CT pin

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